In 11 starts with St. Louis, Pineiro went 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA. That contrasted with 31 so-so appearances in relief with the Red Sox, and back-to-back subpar seasons with the Mariners in 2005 and 2006.
"I thank the Cardinals for giving me that chance," Pineiro said on a conference call on Monday afternoon. "I'm just excited to know that they were really interested in me and I was interested in them."
From the start of the 2005 season until his trade to St. Louis, Pineiro posted a composite 5.88 ERA. He cut that by one-third upon his transition to the National League. The Cardinals believe at least some of that improvement is a legitimate change in what Pineiro has to offer, rather than a two-month hot streak.
"We base it really off of not only what we saw -- we believe his velocity is back up to what it once was -- [but also] it just seems like he's in a great state of mind and healthy and ready to contribute," said interim general manager John Mozeliak.
At the least, St. Louis expects Pineiro to deliver innings. He's pitched over 180 innings three times in his big league career.
Monday's move means three-fifths of the Cardinals' 2008 rotation is set. Pineiro should join Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper in St. Louis' starting five. Also under the team's control are Anthony Reyes, Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer, but none of those pitchers is secure in a starting job for '08. The club would like to add at least one more starter.
"When you start to look at what we still need to do this offseason, we need to still address a more impact type pitcher in our rotation," Mozeliak said. "We'll give it some serious consideration. But knowing what the market is, and knowing what the trade market is, that may be very difficult to do. But we'll definitely try to do that as we move forward."
After signing with the Red Sox to compete for their ninth-inning job, Pineiro pitched only occasionally for Boston and eventually was sent to the Minor Leagues. The Red Sox traded him to St. Louis, and he thrived upon changing leagues. He expressed a strong preference for starting after his brief and unhappy bullpen experience in Boston.
Pineiro threw strikes in St. Louis, but he was prone to the home run, allowing 11 in his 11 starts. He fared much better at Busch Stadium than on the road, posting a 3.38 ERA in St. Louis and a 4.46 ERA in road games.
Pineiro becomes the third potential free agent to return to the Cardinals rather than hitting the open market.
In addition to signing Pineiro, the Cardinals have exercised Jason Isringhausen's option and re-signed Russ Springer to a one-year deal since the regular season ended. Among the team's remaining potential free agents, only David Eckstein and perhaps Troy Percival figure to receive much attention from St. Louis before the free-agency period begins.